PLENARY 4 – Friday 25
Connecting bioacoustics to ecoacoustics to ecology. A new challenge for environmental monitoring and conservation through acoustics.
Centro Interdisciplinare di Bioacustica e Ricerche Ambientali
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e dell’Ambiente
Università degli Studi di Pavia
Via Taramelli 24, 27100 Pavia, Italy
Besides his anthropocentric view, Schafer was a pioneer in highlighting the need for soundscape research and management. In his book, The New Soundscape, Schafer (1969) documents rapid changes in soundscapes with the course of human civilization. However, Rachel Carson, in her book Silent Spring (1962), was the first to recognize the biophony as the natural expression of an ecosystem and to forecast its degradation in response to human impacts.
She expressed her concern for the massive use of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture and their impact on fauna and soil microfauna. She foresaw a silent world without the beautiful songs of birds, frogs, and insects killed by chemicals produced by industries and used in intensive agriculture, or these vocal animals disappearing because of dramatic habitat transformation imposed by industrial and urban development.
Following the development of Bioacoustics and Acoustic Ecology, now consolidated in the emerging field of Ecoacoustics, natural and anthropogenic sounds are recognized as ecological indicators and as essential drivers of several ecological processes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Now we consider the soundscape, in its strict description, as the result of human perception, and the acoustic environment, that exceeds the human hearing limits, extending into the realm of vibrations, infrasounds, and ultrasounds, even in water and below the threshold level of human perception. However, the term soundscape is often used in its broadest significance, largely exceeding human hearing and interpretation.
This discipline still requires continuous development, in theory, models, and methods, to connect Bioacoustics to Ecoacoustics and Ecology for environment management by providing robust ecological indicators in both the short and long time, in small areas as well as in wide ecological regions.
The use of ecoacoustic indicators, or indices, is still in its infancy. The emerging computational bioacoustics/ecoacoustics is slowly providing new tools to recognize specific sounds (species identification) and to generate global indices to robustly describe ecosystem by identifying sonotopes and acoustic communities.
However, a widely accepted protocol for data acquisition and processing is still undefined, as well as it is not clear how to connect some indices to ecosystem structures and processes.
All these advances support the development of the soundscape conservation issue and the study of the noise pollution effects on the health of ecosystems and of human beings.
The acoustic quality of the environment in wild and remote ecosystems, and in human-impacted areas, represents a value to be preserved and improved for the well-being of animals and humans. To conclude, we need to establish largely accepted and robust protocols to describe the evolution of sonosystems locally and globally to support nature conservation.